Research: What images are best for marketing property?

Alex Goron

Business Development Director

alex@loveimagefoundry.com

Alex Goron

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February 12, 2021

Our research highlights that preferences vary among property searchers, and accommodating a variety of preferences in your marketing could boost interest.

Average house prices in the UK increased by 8% over the year to July 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics, with others predicting prices to continue to rise over the next few years, in part fuelled by a post-pandemic “race for space”. Whatever the state of the market, property marketers need to understand what imagery stands out and attracts property buyers.

At Image Foundry, we’ve been producing CGI for product and property marketing for over 20 years. To create CGI that gets better results, we put customer understanding at the heart of our approach. That’s why we worked with Lancaster University Management School to carry out research into property imagery and buyer behaviour.

Anshul Kapoor, co-founder and director of Image Foundry says: “Our research shows some clear trends that are highly valuable in property marketing. All property marketers are looking to create intrigue and get maximum dwell time. More images can help with this.

“Property buyers prefer several images – at least eight – and marketers can appeal to different tastes and get better results by using a variety of daytime, night-time, pristine and lived-in views.

“What if you had all these images at your disposal? It’s the difference between selling a house and selling a home.”

Read more about our approach to property marketing here

What images work best on Zoopla and Rightmove listings?

The researchers split the participants into two groups and gave them five minutes to search for properties on either Zoopla or Rightmove. Afterwards, they asked them questions about their experience

Key findings

Our research found:

  • The greater number of pictures available on a property influences whether a participant clicks on more information. Many property searchers look at how many photos there are before deciding to click. Properties with 5 or fewer images were less likely to attract clicks and more likely to be discarded. Various searchers said that some properties “did not have enough images”. Other comments noted a dislike for properties only featuring “2 or 3 pictures” and a desire to see a “[variety] of rooms”.

 

The Rightmove website displays the number of images available in the top-left of the featured image. This screenshot shows the respondent looking at the number of images available (the larger the dot, the longer the duration).

 

Rightmove website showing respondent looking at number of images available

Rightmove website displaying gaze plots

–  Most searchers look at eight images for each property – this was the modal number in the study. Property searchers get picture fatigue where there are lots of images.

– Premium and featured listings draw people’s gaze. Premium listings typically have a distinctive border and contain more ‘at a glance’ information. They gain a lot more attention than                   regular listings.

 

Rightmove website showing premium listings and featured properties

Zoopla website showing premium listing and feature properties

What exterior and interior images do property buyers prefer?

Participants looked at images of property exteriors and interiors styled differently and then answered questions about their preferences. The eye-tracking results were compared with their answers.

Key findings

Our research found:

  • Property developers are already doing lots of things right. Traditionally popular imagery featuring pristine properties in the daytime continues to appeal to most buyers.
  • There is a gap and an opportunity to appeal to more buyers by using additional imagery featuring life moments, whether through the use of props, alternative views or night-time shots.
  • For exterior images:
    • Both front and back images are useful to potential property buyers – while the front view is likely to show important features such as proximity to roads, other houses and parking, the back view can be more appealing, especially where there is a garden.
    • There is interest in the right lived-in imagery offering shots of life moments.
    • Although bright, inviting daytime images are the most popular, there is potential for night-time images with warmer tones, especially when used alongside daytime ones.
  • For interior images:
    • For relaxation rooms, night-time images were as popular as daytime ones, and more so in some cases, while for functional rooms, daytime images were generally preferred.
    • Lived-in imagery can be used alongside pristine shots to appeal to different tastes among property searchers, as well as ‘hidden preferences’.
  • What property searchers think they prefer and what their eyes are drawn to is not always the same:
    • Participants’ stated preferences didn’t match their visual activity for many of the tests. When asked to rationalise their preference, property searchers may claim traditional imagery appeals, but our eye-tracking research shows they spend more time studying the non-traditional images. This can be seen in the eye-tracking heatmaps below.

 

  Exterior images

A graph showing participants’ preference for external images

Front vs back exterior

Heatmap of the front vs back exterior

93% of participants claimed to prefer the back image to the front, and the heatmaps show a wider dispersion of hotspots for the back view. One participant said the back “shows you a little bit more about the character of the house, the one from the front was a little bit too clean.” Another participant said they preferred the front because “it looked a bit more practical and accessible… you can see there [are] parking facilities, you get a bit more from the image.

The images participants looked at featured a particularly attractive property view from the rear, undoubtedly influencing the results. We suggest that, for larger detached properties, people are more likely to be interested in the rear, which may be impressive and feature a large garden, so property developers should look to make more of rear shots in these cases.

Pristine vs lived-in

 

Heatmaps of the lived-in vs pristine exterior

65% of participants claim to prefer the pristine image, which was described as “quieter, and more quaint, and more homely.” Another participant said: “The left [lived-in] was too busy’ ‘I could see more of where the house was [in the pristine image], the one with the car felt like something was being obscured.”

However, the lived-in image attracted more visual attraction. Those participants claiming to prefer the lived-in image said it “‘looked more authentic’ and ‘it had more activity going on, the one on the right [pristine] looked like a box’.

Day vs night

 

Heatmaps of the day vs night exterior

77% of participants claimed to prefer daytime exterior images, while heatmap patterns show more hotspots on night-time exterior images. The participants’ comments indicate different night-time images with warmer tones have potential. One participant commented that “you go to look at it in the daytime … Properties [are] at their best when they’re bright.” Another said they preferred the night-time image because “there’s that warmth.”

Interior images

Day vs night

Participants were asked whether they were more likely to view the property based on daytime or night-time imagery.

Kitchens

Heatmaps of the day vs night kitchen

63% of participants expressed positivity about kitchen night-time images, compared with 78% for daytime images. However, the left-hand image also shows how you can draw attention to specific items or products of interest by using focused lighting, as seen by the concentrated heat-mapping underneath the lights.

Bathrooms

Heatmaps of the day vs night bathroom

74% of participants expressed positivity about bathroom night-time images, compared with 70% for daytime images. The heatmap shows a relatively equal pattern for each.

Bedrooms

Heatmaps of the day vs night bedroom

52% of participants expressed positivity about bedroom night-time images, with the same percentage feeling positive about daytime images. The heatmap shows a relatively equal pattern for each.

Living rooms

Heatmaps of the day vs night living room

63% of participants expressed positivity about bedroom night-time images, compared with 67% for daytime images. The heatmap shows a relatively equal pattern for each.

For all rooms, the research shows that a range of imagery is required to appeal to a range of tastes in people searching for properties.

Pristine vs lived-in

Participants were asked whether they were more likely to view the property based on a pristine image or a lived-in one.

Bedroom

Heatmaps of the lived-in vs pristine

Despite the lived-in version being extremely untidy, 22% still said they preferred it. 63% claimed to be more likely to view the property based on the pristine bedroom image. The heatmap shows more visual attraction on the lived-in bedroom image.

Interestingly, there seems to be a place for lived-in images alongside more traditional pristine ones. However, we’d suggest a tidier version, instead making use of props tailored to the style and price of the property. Using the right images on the right channels is important too, and the lived-in imagery may be better suited to social media.

Bathroom

Heatmaps of the lived-in vs pristine bathroom

59% said they were more likely to view the property based on the lived-in bathroom image, compared with 74% for the pristine bathroom image. The heatmap shows more visual attraction on the lived-in bedroom image, however.

Key recommendations

Based on the findings of our research, we recommend that property marketers:

In property listings:

  • Feature at least eight images in property listings.
  • Use a variety of images (at least eight but not too many so viewers become fatigued), always using the most attractive and relevant photos of the property first to keep viewers interested.
  • Use premium and featured listings as they get more attention.

For property exteriors:

  • Use a combination of front and rear exterior images to show important practical features such as parking as well as more appealing garden views.
  • Use lived-in images of property exteriors alongside pristine ones, taken from a regular angle and where the view of the house is not obstructed by cars or other ‘lifestyle elements’.
  • Use daytime images of property exteriors but also some night-time images with warmer tones.

For property interiors:

  • Use some night-time images for relaxation rooms such as living rooms or bedrooms to make properties seem more homely.
  • Use daytime images for functional rooms such as the kitchen.
  • Use lived-in images alongside pristine ones, but avoid untidy scenes and tailor subtle props to the style and price of the property.

Find out more

Read more insights into property marketing here, or find out more about the CGI we create for property marketers here.

Sources

UK House Price Index: July 2021 [Accessed 14 October 2021]

House prices forecast to rise by up to 3.5% a year between 2022 and 2024. The Guardian [Accessed 14 October 2021]

Our report:

Lancaster University Management School. Victoria Reece, Lottie Gregory, Jenny Sinker-Walsh, Ishani Dutta and Abbie Dearlove (2021). Marketing Report for Image Foundry [pdf]. Image Foundry.

Research team:

Consultants: Victoria Reece, Lottie Gregory, Jenny Sinker-Walsh, Ishani Dutta and Abbie Dearlove

Tutor: Mary Hargreaves

Lancaster University Management School

Research methodology

The researchers used eye-tracking software to measure how 27 participants responded to various property stimuli and two property websites (Rightmove and Zoopla) and compared these with their claimed preferences.

17 of 27 respondents were aged 20-24, so the data may suffer from age bias if generalised to the entire population. However, the qualitative data gathered demonstrates very similar opinions across most respondents and is useful as preliminary research into what imagery is attractive within the property market.

For more information, please contact the team at info@imagefoundry.com

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